Joe Shaw, Andrew Somerville
Team: Series One
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Reviewed by Will Harris
lthough British TV series like “The Office,” “Extras,” “Spaced,” “Fawlty Towers,” and even “The Young Ones” have received much praise over the years for offering up a few short seasons and then closing up shop while they’re still at the top of their game, let us not forget that there are plenty of series from across the pond which have gone on and on and on.
Case and point: the police drama “The Bill,” which finally wrapped production in 2010 after a staggering 26 series. For Americans without a frame of reference to “The Bill,” try to imagine a collision between “Hill Street Blues,” “Law & Order,” and a nighttime soap opera. Like “Law & Order,” “The Bill” inspired several spin-offs during its run, including “Burnside” and “Beech is Back,” but the only one to last more than six episodes was “Murder Investigation Team.” (The series is known more familiarly by its acronym outside of the US, but concerns over possible confusion with a certain institution of higher learning resulted in the show sticking to its full name during American airings on A&E.)
Maybe it’s because it’s the combination of talking about both American frames of references and spin-offs, but darned if “Murder Investigation Team” doesn’t come across like a British version of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” Or maybe it’s more like “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.” Either way, you never see the cases make it into the courtroom, but you do follow the Team every step of the way as they attempt to solve the cases that have fallen into their laps. Unlike “The Bill,” there are almost no soap opera aspects to the show, unless you count the perpetual battle between DI Vivien Friend (Samantha Spiro) and sexist DS Trevor Hands (Michael McKell). This is definitely a proper procedural, and a rather dark one at that, with episodes revolving around the murder of a pedophile, a boy who’s had his heart cut out, a former Page 3 girl who’s been beaten to death, and more.
Samantha Spiro offers an intense performance as DI Friend, a woman who’s dedicated to her job and driven to solve the crimes assigned to her, yet she maintains a certain degree of aloofness which makes it hard for the other detectives that work with her to develop any sort of closeness to her. Still, over the course of this first series, she slowly but surely forges a strong working relationship with DC Rosie MacManus (Lindsey Coulson), who works somewhat differently and with more emotion but ultimately still gets the job done.
“Murder Investigation Team: Series One” ends not with a bang but, rather, with the stabbing death of one of its members, leaving things somewhat in disarray come the closing credits. Still, by then, you’ve had eight solid episodes of a British procedural, one which probably deserves a better reputation that simply being written off as a spin-off of “The Bill.” Based on all reports, it’s a far more serious affair than the series which spawned it.
Special Features: Slim pickings, to be sure, but there’s an audio commentary on the first episode with series creator Paul Marquess and series consultant Jackie Malton, as well as a 25-minute interview with actor Michael McKell, who plays Detective Sergeant Trevor Hands. Hey, it’s better than nothing, especially for a show that’s almost a decade old but is only just now hitting DVD.